The Sultan of Brunei celebrated his 50 years on the throne of the tiny oil-rich nation in typically understated style. Dressed in gold brocade and festooned with medals, the sultan entered the capital – with his wife Queen Saleha and their children – on a gilded chariot pulled by 50 members of staff.

Sultan of Brunei Hassanal Bolkiah
5 October 2017: The Sultan of Brunei, Hassanal Bolkiah, waves from a chariot during a procession to mark his golden jubilee in Bandar Seri Begawan Roslan Rahman/AFP

The five-kilometre procession through the streets of Bandar Seri Begawan was part of a month-long celebration of his golden jubilee, which will include the opening of Brunei's first cable-stayed bridge and the unveiling of a major new urban park. A lavish state banquet will be held at the gold-domed palace on Friday (6 October), attended by regional leaders, Middle Eastern royalty and Britain's Prince Edward and Sophie Countess of Wessex.

Sultan Hassanal Bolkiah – or His Majesty Sultan Haji Hassanal Bolkiah Mu'izzaddin Waddaulah ibni Al-Marhum Sultan Haji Omar Ali Saifuddien Sa'adul Khairi Waddien Sultan and Yang Di-Pertuan of Brunei Darussalam, to give him his full name and title – is now the world's second-longest reigning living monarch, after Britain's Queen Elizabeth II. He ascended to the throne following the abdication of his father on 4 October 1967.

He is the world's wealthiest monarch and was once the world's richest man, with a personal wealth estimated at £15 billion ($20bn) in 2008. He lives in an 1,788-room palace and owns one of the world's most valuable collections of high-performance supercars. IBTimes UK looks at his opulent lifestyle in pictures.

Despite tight social controls, the sultan is hugely popular. His rule has seen Brunei gain full independence from Britain and living standards soar to among the highest in Asia. The country does not hold elections but any discontent is assuaged with generous government polices, including zero taxes, subsidised housing and free healthcare and education.

Brunei – a former British protectorate of about 400,000 people on the north coast of the island of Borneo in southeast Asia – relies heavily on oil and gas exports for its wealth. The sultan has a firm grip on power, but Brunei has also become a microcosm of the trouble faced by oil-dependent states.

As global energy prices tumbled over the past three years, government revenue nosedived by 70 per cent. Brunei is the only Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) country to have seen a recession for three straight years. The price collapse prompted Brunei to embrace Chinese investment, with Beijing pumping billions into key infrastructure projects. In return, the sultanate has remained largely silent on Beijing's vast territorial stake in the South China Sea, which overlaps Brunei's own claims in the disputed waters.

The sultan presided over the adoption of tough Islamic law in 2014, which raised concerns among tens of thousands of non-Muslims, including Western expatriate workers. The sale of alcohol is banned in Brunei and evangelism by other religions is strictly forbidden.

Details of the lavish lifestyle of the sultan's brother, Prince Jefri, including owning hundreds of luxury cars and a yacht, became public during a family feud, grabbing global headlines and shocking many in the country.